A Story is Born
How well do you remember two years ago? Somewhere in the middle of March 2020 was one of those moments that change history...for better or for worse.
Now that we've had some time to digest what has happened over the past two years (and it hasn't always been pretty!) it's time to look back with some clear hindsight and realize how these months have changed our writing.
I know I'm not alone in this: The pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named* wasn't the only life-changing event that happened in 2020. Many of us had earth shaking happenings in our personal lives, too. Things that weren't related to the PTSNBN* threw us out of our groove, shut down our creativity, and either stopped us in our tracks or caused us to change directions.
For me it provided the excuse to take a complete change in direction. I needed something new. Something to jump-start my creativity and get me excited about writing again.
But where should I start?
The first thing was to decide on a genre. I love historical romance, but I had been down that road. I needed something new.
I looked at my Goodreads list - what books had I been reading? Which ones had I enjoyed the most? I realized that I love cozy mysteries - not exclusively - but I love reading them.
So the next step? I decided to try writing one. And a story was born.
The first question - the genre - was already decided.
The setting? Easy. I looked out my office window and knew the Black Hills was perfect.
The characters? It didn't take long for me to have my cast. In a mystery you need a sleuth, a sidekick, a lawman/woman, an interesting antagonist, and the all important bad guy. I also added in a mentor and a couple pets who are too smart for their own good.
Emma Blackwood (the sleuth) is an unemployed hotel manager who comes to the Black Hills to work in her aunt's upscale bed and breakfast, the Sweetbrier Inn.
Emma is smart, capable, and just a little bit OCD.
Becky Graves, her sidekick, is a fabulous baker and is related to just about everyone who lives in the small town of Paragon. Part Lakota and part Irish, she claims her ethnic background is a blend of the best the world has to offer.
I gave Emma a fun antagonist, too. Wil Scott is Rose's business partner and the chef at the Sweetbrier Inn. He and Emma get along like a couple of siblings who can't put their rivalries aside, but Emma says his cooking is to die for. Her favorite breakfast is Wil's Crème Brulée French Toast.
The lawman in the story is County Deputy Sheriff Cal Cooper. He also happens to be Becky's cousin (didn't I tell you everyone in Paragon is related?) Cal is a no-nonsense guy who reluctantly lets Emma work the case with him.
Emma's mentor is her Aunt Rose. Rose has a mysterious past that keeps Emma guessing. Her warm personality sets the tone for the inn. From the early morning breakfasts to the daily afternoon teas, the inn is Rose's baby.
The pets are Rose's corgi, Thatcher, and Emma's young black cat named Tim. Don't worry - they get along with each other just fine.
The setting of the Sweetbrier Inn is perfect for a cozy mystery because the cast of characters keeps changing for each book in the series. I have one set of guests for the first book and a completely different set for the second. New characters = new suspects.
Wait - did I forget to mention the bad guy? Sorry. No spoilers here. He/she/they will remain a mystery until the end of the book!
With the changes in my writing, I was basically giving my career a makeover. I've developed a new brand, a new logo, and am working on a new website.
Another big change is that these new books will be indie published, so I created my own publishing company - Swift Wings Press - with its own completely unnecessary but fun logo.
The last thing - after selecting an editor (thank you Beth Jamison!) cover artist (thank you Hannah Linder!) formatting, etc. etc. (all the details of indie publishing) - was to select titles.
I always have a hard time coming up with titles. Then I remembered some of my favorite mysteries, and I was on my way.
"The Sign of the Calico Quartz" is the first book in the Sweetbrier Inn Series. I've set the publication date for May 25, 2022.
The next book is "The Case of the Artist's Mistake," which will be coming out late summer 2022.
The third book is still in the works, but be assured Emma, Becky, Cal, and the rest of the gang will catch the bad guy in that one, too.
How did the past two years affect your writing? Did it feel like you ran into a brick wall or did you feel like you had new ideas and energy?
And if you're still struggling to make some sense of what you're supposed to be doing with your writing through all of this, let us know so we can pray you through the slump. One thing I do know - you are not alone!!!